McDonald’s, Tesco and Sainsbury’s all reported IT outages across their stores on Friday (15 March) and Saturday (16 March), highlighting the fragility of increasingly complicated IT systems in large organisations.

The three companies have apologised to customers affected by the outages and confirmed there was no connection between them.

What caused the IT outages at McDonald’s, Tesco and Sainsbury’s?

McDonald’s customers were unable to order food on Friday following an IT system outage in its stores.

The global fast food giant had to close restaurants in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. 

McDonald’s blamed the issue on a third-party configuration change. 

McDonald’s chief information officer, Brian Rice, confirmed that the outage was not due to a cyberattack. 

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“Notably, this issue was not directly caused by a cybersecurity event, rather, it was caused by a third-party provider during a configuration change,” Rice said in a statement. 

The following day, Sainsbury’s was forced to cancel home deliveries due to its own IT outage, which, according to the company, may have affected £9m worth of orders. 

The supermarket giant said the “error” was caused by an overnight software update that prevented customers from making contactless payments or ordering food online. 

“We are currently experiencing a technical issue affecting some stores, our Groceries Online service and our ability to contact customers directly,” said a spokesperson for Sainsbury. 

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to fulfil the vast majority of today’s Groceries Online deliveries. We are working hard to fix the issue and apologise to our customers for the inconvenience.

A few hours after Sainsbury’s issues, Tesco said it was forced to cancel online orders due to a “technical issue”.

A spokesman for Tesco said: “We are working to fix a technical issue which has meant we have had to cancel some online orders that were due for delivery today. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

It is not currently clear what “technical issue” caused the fault in Tesco’s IT system.

What do the outages demonstrate about large organisations’ IT systems?

The recent IT outages of these three big companies have highlighted how large organisations are falling victim to technical issues, according to experts. 

Guy Warren, CEO of software company ITRS, told Verdict that the outages at McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s and Tesco shows that IT estates are growing more susceptible to outages with longer periods of downtime.

“With operational resilience at the forefront of the business agenda, firms should already have introduced highly proactive monitoring and security capabilities, so they see what their systems are doing in real-time,” Warren said. 

“If these three companies had access to this level of insight, the outages across their platforms might never have happened – let alone drag on until it becomes headline news,” he added. 

Chelsea Hopkins, PR manager at internet service provider Fasthosts, told Verdict that the outages highlights the need for strong It protocols and stringent monitoring procedures. 

“The amount of sales lost from these outages will have been staggering, and really should serve as a warning to ensure your IT affairs are in order,” Hopkins said. 

She added: “When outages like this occur the first thought for many is a cyber-attack, but this is a reminder that even large corporations aren’t immune from normal IT troubles.”